A position worth filling

The city of Chico should hire an economic development director.

The Chico City Council made the right call this week when it scrapped a proposal by a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm to manage the Chico Municipal Airport.

As Robert Speer points out in his report on the meeting (see page 10), the proposal was expensive (more than $120,000 a year) and the city would still have to hire additional personnel to carry out the firm’s plan. Moreover, an additional annual fee of $25,000 to search for a new airline service would very likely be fruitless given that there simply aren’t enough people to fill the seats—the reason SkyWest pulled out of Chico last December. Business travelers in Chico must head to Sacramento for air service, but there’s no immediate fix. And there’s no use throwing money at a problem that will resolve in time as the business community grows and there’s a clear demand for an airline.

In the meantime, however, we believe that the city should entertain the idea of hiring a full-time economic development director. Chico hasn’t had this position since Martha Westcoat-Andes departed from the city in 2010, the year before the massive organizational restructuring and layoffs took place at City Hall.

Now that the economy has improved and the city is rehiring staff and even giving raises to certain employees, its leadership and the City Council should think of the long-term advantages of getting someone in to work daily on attracting new business, especially in the technology sector. The city could hire someone for a designated time frame and measure the results of his or her work, and it would cost taxpayers far less than the airport proposal. From our standpoint, it would be money well-spent.